Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
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William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
 
On the Character of Commodore Macdonough
By Lydia Huntley Sigourney (1791–1865)
 
THE SCENE of death is past: the cannon’s roar
Dies in faint echoes on the distant wave.
The Christian and the hero stands alone
Encircled by the slain. No flush of joy
Or ray of triumph gilds his thoughtful brow;        5
For though his heart ascends in grateful praise
To Him who heard his prayer, it sighs with pain,
Lamenting o’er the wo his hand has wrought.
That bosom, which, amidst the battle’s rage,
Was calm and tranquil, feels the life-blood creep        10
Chill through its channels, and that manly cheek,
Which kept its hue unblanch’d when shrieks of death
And agony arose, is pale, and sad,
And wet with bitter tears for brethren lost.
To them he turns his eye, but meets no glance        15
Of answering friendship. On the deck they sleep
Pale, ghastly, silent; while the purple stream
Flows, slowly ebbing, from their bosoms cold.
One short hour since, he saw them full of life,
And strength, and courage; now the northern blast        20
Sighs as it passes o’er them—whispering low,
“Behold the end of man!”
Nor yet for friends alone the victor sighs,
The noble heart may mourn a fallen foe,
And do no wrong to honour; may revere        25
His virtues, and lament that cruel fate
Bade those to meet so stern who would have joy’d
To join in friendship’s pure and sacred bands.
He fought not for the vain applause of man,
To light the flame of war in distant lands,        30
Or carry fire, and sword, and wo, and death
Among the innocent; but nerved his arm
And steel’d his ardent heart, to meet the sword
Drawn on his native land, and urged to blood,
By provocation strange and the blind wrath        35
Of erring man. He saw a martial host
Press, with invading step, her valleys green,
Pour o’er her placid lakes the storm of war;
Saw her smooth waters darken’d with the shade
Of crowding fleets; he saw the smoke arise        40
In heavy volumes, from those splendid domes,
Where legislation held her awful sway.
He felt her sad disgrace, and heard a voice,
Deep toned and piercing, call the brave to arms;
His was the heart to answer, and he rose,        45
With confidence in heaven, and soul prepared.
He stood the shock, and from the furnace flame
Came forth like gold. And if this scene of wo
Is still to last, may many heroes rise,
Thus bright with rays whose source is from within,        50
And clad in virtue’s arms.
The temper’d sword, long bathed in blood, may break;
The shield may be destroy’d; the well-aim’d dart
Err in its course; the warrior’s eye grow dim;
But the firm soul, whose trust is placed above,        55
Shrinks not; though loud that last, dread trump should sound,
Whose warning voice shall rend the solid earth,
And give her glory to the whelming flame.
 
 
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